5 Sexual Violence Advocates To Know On International Women’s Day

Illustration of women of a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, multi-colored text says "International Women's Day"

Photo Credit: AlonzoDesign

Since the early 1900s, feminists around the world have celebrated International Women’s Day. Each March 8th is an opportunity to talk about the progress that has been made and how far we still have to go. As an organization combatting sexual violence, we are particularly interested in using this day as an opportunity to highlight some of the incredible women who are doing the work to end sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.

Sarah Deer

Sarah Deer is University of Kansas professor who has dedicated her research to, “the intersection of federal Indian law and victims’ rights, using indigenous feminist principles as a framework.” A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, her advocacy has earned her national awards from both the Department of Justice and the American Bar Association. The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America is her acclaimed collection of essays that explore the ways in which the legacy of colonialism has set a foundation for sexual violence against Native American women and must be addressed and combatted for cultural and legal reforms. The late former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior and member of the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, Ada Deer, found Sarah’s book to be a, “compelling and compassionate revelation of the eternal violence against Native women. It is a call to action for all of us.” Sarah has also written Sharing Our Stories of Survival: Native Women Surviving Violence and other publications highlighting this issue.

Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay, known primarily for her role on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, has been a remarkable advocate for sexual violence survivors. Her character, Detective Olivia Benson, was the catalyst for her awakening about the issue, and has used her considerable platform to educate about sexual violence and lend her support to those impacted. She founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 with the mission to, “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.” Additionally, she has publicly spoken out, and produced the documentary I am Evidence, about how damaging and harrowing the backlog and destruction of rape kits is for those who seek justice after an assault. She became a certified rape counselor and, whether it’s on her public platform or to a private audience, she knows how to come to the table to help survivors and advocate for positive change.

Amanda Nguyen

As a survivor of sexual assault, Amanda Nguyen experienced firsthand the systemic and structural problems that make achieving justice such a difficult task in the legal system. Her experience led her to found Rise, a nonprofit dedicated to enabling activists to create sexual violence-related legislation and get it passed. The bill she drafted, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act (also referred to as the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016), became the 21st bill to pass with unanimous support in modern U.S. history. Rise has made their mission international, with their efforts directly resulting in the United Nations General Assembly passing a resolution on sexual violence survivors’ rights for the very first time. While Rise has branched out to such influential grassroots movements as #StopAsianHate, March for Our Lives, and the Women’s March, Nguyen’s foundation will always include the fight against sexual violence. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a Time Woman of the Year, and one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Nguyen is only just beginning in her journey to embolden all sorts of activists in getting legislation passed that enshrines the right to dignity, safety, and justice for all.

Bamby Salcedo

Bamby Salcedo is a transgender Latina activist who has served as a longtime advocate for the transgender Latina community in the United States. As the subject of two documentaries, TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story and LA QueenCiañera, Salcedo is a figure that has captured public attention for her unabashed voice and steadfast activist work. She is the President and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition, which provides for the transgender Latina community in LA with vital offerings like food, HIV prevention and testing, legal services for those leaving immigration detention centers, various types of support for victims of sexual violence, and more. As a survivor of sexual violence herself, she has gone on to be recognized for her advocacy at the White House, while speaking before Congress alongside the ERA Coalition (of which she is a board member), and at the 2018 National Sexual Assault Conference. Aside from sexual violence, she is passionate about, “varied topics and intersecting issues that include transgender-related issues, social justice, healthcare, social services, incarceration, immigration, and detention as well as professional and economic development for transgender people.”

Wagatwe Wanjuki

As co-founder of Survivors Eradicating Rape Culture, Wagatwe Wanjuki has long been a prominent figure in the fight against sexual assault on college campuses. As her hashtags #JustSaySorry and #SurvivorPrivilege went viral, Wanjuki educated users about how survivors of sexual violence are owed apologies from schools who failed to protect them and the tremendous hidden costs of sexual assaults. She has received honors and distinctions from Women’s Media Center, TEDx, and The Root for her advocacy. Interested readers can subscribe to her newsletter here. She also maintains as Patreon to educate about violence and rape culture.

As an organization with a grant program focused on eradicating sexual violence and empowering women, we recognize how challenging, intense, and rewarding this line of work can be. We applaud all of the women above and look forward to continuing to highlight the efforts of outstanding women advocates everywhere!

RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.


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